On 20th November the London Metropolitan Archives will host ‘Women and the London County Council’, a free lecture at 2-3pm discussing the courageous women who challenged a ban on female councillors by standing in local elections.
The lecture is part of the City of London Corporation’s ‘Women: Work and Power
’ season of events celebrating the achievements of women through history. Leading the way for women councillors
On 17th November 1888, Liberal politicians Jane Cobden and Lady Margaret Sandhurst openly stood in the inaugural local elections for the London County Council, despite a ban on women serving as councillors. Their decision to run came after the enactment of the Local Government Act of 1888, which cast doubt over the ban as its ambiguous wording appeared to suggest that women were not prohibited from standing as county councillors.
Despite opposition from Conservatives, Cobden and Sandhurst’s nominations were accepted by the local returning officers. After an enthusiastic campaign, both women won their seats. Almost immediately after Sandhurst’s election, her seat was contested by her defeated Conservative opponent, which led to her being disqualified. Although Cobden was never disqualified her position as councillor remained precarious throughout her tenure.
The uncertainty around whether women had the right to sit on county councils remained unsettled until 1907 when the Qualification of the Women Act explicitly granted it. Once the bar was lifted, women rose to some of the highest positions in local politics, including Ivy Molly Bolton, appointed Chairman of the London County Council in 1953.
to book. Women: Work and Power runs until the end of November: www.cityoflondon.gov.uk/womenworkpower